When the one who bears the scars is the one who strikes the blow: history, human rights, and Haiti's restavèks Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Wagner, Laura Rose
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • The practice of keeping restavèks, or unpaid domestic child laborers, in Haiti has come under scrutiny by both human rights activists and journalists, many of whom describe it as a form of slavery. While this description is not entirely inaccurate and may also be useful, it fails to reflect the variability of treatment of restavèks, the complex ways in which power is exercised, the ways in which people occupy "oppressor" and "oppressed" roles simultaneously, the various local understandings of restavèk relationships and human rights, and the particular historical meanings and memories attached to slavery in Haiti. By critically examining descriptions of restavèks in activist and journalistic discourse, and analyzing the data collected during my fieldwork in the Haitian community in South Florida, I point to more syncretic and inclusive ways of understanding and reforming the practice of keeping restavèks.
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  • Rivkin-Fish, Michele
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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